San Marco would not be what it is today without the unique ambiance and sense of place of San Marco Square. Unfortunately, Jacksonville's true identity and heritage is in danger of being lost forever as time continues to move on. With that in mind, here is a brief look back at the rise and abrupt fall of San Marco Square's Atlantic Boulevard counterpart: Times Square.
The businesses in Times Square were representative of the community and industries surrounding them. Rural areas south of South Jacksonville were dominated by dairies, chicken, floral, and truck farms, creating a market for businesses such as Southside Feed, Painter's Poultry, and Red Comb Feed Store. With automobile ownership rapidly increasing locally and a location on the edge of the developed city, several filling stations such as Cuthbert Jones, Millford Brothers and David Ratteree operated in the district. Markets and stores such as Daylight Grocery, A&P, Lovett's Grocerteria, Community Five and Dime Store, AA Hardware, Times Square Hardware, Times Square Furniture made the district a popular spot for nearby residents in South Jacksonville and neighboring St. Nicholas. If one was looking for a bite to eat or some entertainment, establishments such as the Miramar Drive-In Restaurant, Nell Howell's Sandwich Company, Times Square Restaurant and Howard Biser's Restaurant didn't disappoint. Due to a large number of industries along the riverfront and Florida East Coast Railway's shops, support services such as Independent Laundry, Johnson's Dry Cleaning, Matt Price Shoe Repair, and Roberts Watch Repair could also be found in Times Square. For those looking for a little public space, Fletcher Park's Fulton Green dominated the northwest corner of the bustling Atlantic Boulevard and Kings Avenue intersection.
Sanborn Map of Times Square in 1951. Commercial buildings are highlighted in blue. Fletcher Park's Fulton Green is shown in green.
By 1950, Times Square had grown along Kings Avenue, stretching two blocks from Landon Avenue to Olevia, and two blocks along Atlantic Boulevard, between Fulton Place and Truman Avenue. However, its days as a part of the Jacksonville landscape swiftly came to an end. By 1960, Times Square was no more as the majority of the district was razed for the construction of the Jacksonville Expressway and what would become the I-95/Philips Highway interchange.
This roadway project would be the first of many that have forever altered the visual and physical landscape of the once walkable city into a major American sprawler known for being one of the most deadly cities for pedestrians and cyclist in the country. Over the years, additional highway expansion would eat up more of the disappearing strip's businesses and buildings.
While one of the Southside's earliest commercial strips was no more, the combination of the expressway and opening of Philips Plaza, a mile south, would give birth to a commercial district designed for automobiles instead of transit riders and pedestrians, Miracle Mile.
Today, not much is left of Times Square. With the former Lovett's Food Stores structure being demolished as a part of the Overland Bridge project, the Daylight Supermarket (built in 1929) and Cuthbert Jones filling station (built in 1947) are the only remaining structures with direct ties to Times Square's heyday.
The building housing Fresenius Medical Care at 1944 Atlantic Boulevard is the last structure that made up the heart of Times Square, still standing. It was built in 1929 and for many years was home to the Daylight Supermarket.
A 1951 Sanborn map overlayed over a 2013 aerial of where Times Square used to exist.
Article by Ennis Davis. Contact Ennis at email@example.com
Author's note:The Story of Times Square is representative of an upcoming book project, Lost Jacksonville. Lost Jacksonville will highlight both visually and verbally, the history and identity of Jacksonville districts, major destinations and neighborhoods that no longer exist today.